Wednesday, September 16, 2009

News from Lake Basebegone, Sept 16 2009

It’s with an eerie sense of apprehension that I draft this post, just hours after posting on the Brill’s Content article of 2000, and the less than flattering views it expressed on our local newspaper and various “town fathers.”

You have my word that this juxtaposition happens to be, well, happenstance. After completing the “Color me clueless” post, I discovered that the Forecaster had once again done some solid reporting on the MRRA and the Oxford Aviation proposal. I stopped work to gobble down some victuals, and glanced at the local paper’s coverage of the same meeting while I did.

Then it hit me; could we be witnessing the same pathologies described in the 2000 article here and now as base redevelopment unfolds?

To the point. The Forecaster reported on yesterday’s MRRA meeting in Bath with an emphasis on discussions about the Oxford Aviation proposal, citing comments by Commissioner John Richardson, the irrepressible and irresistable F. Lee Bailey, and Steve Levesque, head of the MRRA. Levesque is a predecessor of Richardson in the Commissioner spot, and was appointed by Gov. Baldacci to his current post.

Our local paper's report on the same meeting, on the other hand, mentions not one word about Oxford, Bailey, or Richardson, but instead dwells on issues of broader general interest, featuring a picture of the Blue Angels with a suggestion that they may someday return if things work out right.

As readers know, this reporter in months past, and the Forecaster more recently, have focused on exploring the history of Oxford Aviation and its pursuit of corporate welfare and tax loopholes from MRRA and local taxpayers.

The local newspaper, other than carrying this reporter’s op-ed pieces some months ago, and with “vetting” rigor not applied to other authors, has blithely ignored the Oxford situation and the political posturing surrounding it.

The referenced Forecaster article gives cause for concern. First, there seems to be a rush to consummate the deal, as indicated in this passage:

Richardson, who has not returned phone calls seeking comment about Oxford Aviation, on Tuesday appeared anxious for MRRA to vote on the lease agreement.

"When can we expect to ratify the (contract)?" Richardson asked. "I feel like we've had this in front of us for quite some time."
This is the same Richardson that sermonized on “protocols” and “confidentiality is king” just a few short months ago at a town council meeting. Apparently Richardson wants to rush this through, raising questions about a desire to take credit for the deal when he makes his widely rumored pending announcement to seek the Governor’s office. Time is a wasting, one surmises.

Careful reading of the article further reveals a change in the status of the Oxford deal. MRRA in the past had only gone so far as to say that they had a “memorandum of understanding” from Oxford, and refused, under cover of their lawyers, to disclose any content or details.

Now the rhetoric is about a “lease agreement,” or even more binding, a contract:

Richardson asked MRRA Executive Director Steve Levesque if the contract between MRRA and Oxford Aviation was signed. Levesque told Richardson that the MRRA board needed to ratify the agreement.
Side can’t help but wonder whether the influence peddling described in 2000 isn’t alive and well and working its magic even today, in what is surely the most far reaching and consequential era in Brunswick history.

Inquiring minds also have to wonder why MRRA, its board, Richardson, and the rest take the word of F. Lee Bailey in discussions about Oxford. He is not an officer of the company, and has no accountability or stake in these matters. At least none that have been disclosed.

Are our “public servants” that blinded by celebrity? Are they that in awe of it? Will it trump their fiduciary obligations for our interests?

There’s no denying that Richardson and Oxford are in a rush to get it done. The only reasons for such haste that come to mind are unseemly and troubling. And they suggest a vulnerability to gamesmanship of the vilest sort, primed by personal ambition.

Get it done by October 20th, that is. Set your clocks, you interested students of the local scene.

From Side’s perspective, it looks like the rush is a bum’s rush. And it’s probably not a good idea to stand in the way. Hell hath no fury like an ambitious politician denied.

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